Ansel Adams said “A good photograph is knowing where to stand.” Russell Adams knows sometimes it also means knowing where to sit.
To be fair, Russell Adams (no relation) doesn’t shoot any pictures from his seat at the front of Gwinnett County Public Schools bus No. 3185. But he can think of ideas for shots while he’s sitting there, and one of those recently led to a national award for the photo aficionado.
Adams, 60, is not allowed to take his camera on the bus, so he’s learned how to make great pictures with his cell phone. One dank day in 2018 he got the inspiration for his winning photo while waiting for students.
“It was a mundane, dreary sort of day in the real world, but the puddle had different ideas,” Adams said of his winning photo, titled “The Upsidedown.”
He shot and edited the photo on his smartphone, taking nine attempts to get the photo just the way he wanted.
With encouragement from the head of the GCPS transportation department, Adams entered the photo in a national contest sponsored by “School Bus Fleet” magazine and it took the top prize.
“I have known Russell for a couple of years now. I have been very impressed with his work, and when I saw that ‘School Bus Fleet’ magazine was having a picture contest I forwarded the information to Russell and recommended that he enter,” said Don Moore, executive director of transportation for GCPS.
“We are blessed to have many talented people in our organization with a variety of skills and talents. It is always a pleasure to see team members being recognized for their talents.”
“It felt nice. Definitely a validation,” said Adams, a longtime Lawrenceville resident.
Adams, who has driven a GCPS bus for seven years, said he receives lots of encouragement from his fellow drivers. And that gave him the idea to publish a book of his photos called ”Visions From A Bus Driver” that is available on Amazon.
Those photos are inspired by early mornings — he awakens at 4:45 a.m. every school day — and the many nature scenes he sees on his daily route. And they are all taken on his LG cell phone, which at first was a challenge.
“I’ve learned to use what I’ve got,” Adams said of shooting with his cell phone. “I’ve learned to take great photos with the equipment I have.”
The equipment he prefers is his Canon T5i or Canon Rp. Those are the cameras he takes on his weekend trips to shoot landscape photos. He loves taking nature photos, and fall is his favorite time to shoot.
“Fall is my time of the year, buddy,” he said. “I love the colors of fall. I’m a big fan of waterscapes — reflections in water and waterfalls.
“It’s not that I don’t like people — I just like nature a whole lot better.”
His love of photography started at a young age. Adams’ father was a wedding photographer, and as a 10-year-old Adams remembers going on a field trip to the state capitol in Birmingham, Alabama where he took photos that impressed his dad.
He’s been shooting ever since. Though his passion is photography, Adams said he has grown to love his job ferrying students to school and back in the Discovery High School cluster.
“On all my routes, my kids love me and I love them, but it took me time to get there,” he said. “(My fellow drivers) are a great group of people. We are a family — we all fit together.”
Though he loves his job, photography is always on his mind.
“Would I like to be outside taking pictures every day? Yes,” he said. “But I get to play Indiana Jones on the weekend. I go out and find my treasure and bring back proof.”